International schools in Hong Kong

Quality of local schools in doubt, Amcham says

We need graduates in tune with 21st century business standards, forum's chairman says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 5:17am

The recently reappointed chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong yesterday criticised the quality of the city's education system, urging officials to adopt long-term planning in order to maintain its competitiveness.

Amcham chairman James Sun said in his inaugural speech at the chamber's annual luncheon that the chamber was "concerned about the quality of education provided at many local schools especially in the quality of English language and science instruction. Our companies want to hire local graduates, but they need to be ready to handle 21st century business standards."

Sun added that the shortage of international school places was "symptomatic of the lack of planning tools" on the part of the government, as the movement of international and mainland families increased with more cross-border commercial activities.

International schools are a popular choice for families who have low confidence in the local education system and who are particularly concerned about English training, with most public schools now teaching in mother-tongue Cantonese.

Sun reiterated the city should set up a top-level body to liaise on matters relating to talent attainment, as lack of international school places had created a "bottleneck" for foreign companies seeking to establish a base in the city.

Quality of education was among three issues that the Beijing-born Sun raised during yesterday's speech, along with the improvement in the regulation of the financial services sector and environmental issues.

Regarding air quality, he said the government should facilitate higher environmental standards for diesel goods vehicles and buses, and move to improve public transport management by restructuring bus routes.

Without citing examples, Sun also said that the city should strengthen its regulatory framework to maintain high standards for initial public offerings.

"Hong Kong must set the highest [financial regulation] standards - especially as we should absolutely be a prime role model for China's financial services sector. This is a time to increase standards, not adjust downwards for near-term gains," he said, adding that such an approach would attract the "best" companies to the market.

He declined to comment on the city's political reform, saying only that it should "unify" in order to move forward.